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Official: 'Catholic 7' to Leave Big East

As expected, the seven basketball-only Catholic schools will
leave the Big East conference, effective July 1. The announcement was made by
Big East commissioner Mike Aresco.

The agreement is subject to formal approval from the board.

"I am pleased that this agreement has been
reached," said Aresco. "With the long-term well-being of our
outstanding institutions and their student-athletes of paramount importance,
each group worked through a number of complex issues in an orderly,
comprehensive and amicable manner marked by mutual respect.  We part ways
as friends and colleagues and look forward to the success of both

The seven schools, which have been nicknamed the
"Catholic 7" willform a new league, which is expected to retain the "Big East" name,
while the current Big East conference will be rebranded. According to an ESPN
report, the
frontrunner is "America 12."

Fox, which will launch Fox Sports 1 Aug. 17, is expected to score a media rights deal with the new basketball-only Big East. Fox declined  comment on March 8. Three days earlier, at a press conference and upfront presentation in New York where Fox Sports 1 was officially announced, the "Catholic 7" was on the minds of attendees. Fox Sports Media Group co-president Randy Freer said the programmer hoped "to wrap something up in the not-too-distant future," while his counterpart Eric Shanks during the upfront presentation said "the college basketball we do acquire will be a beast. Get the joke?"

The presidents of the seven basketball universities released
the following statement regarding their formal separation:

"We are grateful to Commissioner Michael Aresco for
spearheading an agreement that truly represents the best path forward for each
of our great institutions and the thousands of student-athletes who compete for
our schools annually.  It is a great credit to Mike, our colleagues, and
all involved that we were able to work through a host of highly complex and
time-sensitive issues in such a short period of time.  We are pleased that
we reached this amicable and mutually-beneficial separation by approaching each
issue with a spirit of cooperation and shared respect."

The seven Catholic schools are DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova.

current Big East will soon formally
announce its new rights deal with ESPN
. The NBC Sports Group had made a bid for
the conference's rights, but as the incumbent rights holder, ESPN had the
opportunity to match.

Mike Reynolds (Multichannel News) contributed to this story.